Child support is an essential element of any divorce action involving children. Courts will look to the statutory factors established in the New Jersey family code to determine the amount of support to be paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent. There are many factors that go into determining the exact amount of support, each laid out by the New Jersey statutes. Sometimes, the paying parent will fall behind in his or her child support payments. In such a situation, the paying parent would do well to take proactive steps.
First, the issue is why the paying parent is behind in support. If the reason is because the paying parent has experienced an unexpected drop in income, then he or she needs to file a request to modify the future child support obligation. Keep in mind that this request would probably not be granted if, for example, the paying parent voluntarily quit a job. In order to have a child support modification, the drop in income typically needs to be a permanent and involuntary drop. If you have had an involuntary and at least semi-permanent drop in income, you should file a motion to modify your support obligation. This is especially true when you are unable to meet your current support obligations.
Second, you need to understand that until you do file such a motion, you are still bound by the previous court order. This is true even if you have experienced a drop in income. Accordingly, you should file a motion to modify as soon as possible. You also need to be prepared to pay any arrears that have accrued in your support obligation. Child support modifications are not typically back-dated before the motion is filed. It is also possible that you could ask to pay the arrearages off in monthly installments, which will be paid in addition to your regular support payments.
Finally, understand that being proactive is definitely in your best interest. If you fail to meet your support obligations, the other parent may file a contempt action against you. This can result in you having to pay attorney’s fees, court costs, or in extreme cases, a warrant being issued for your arrest.
It is very important to stay up to date on your child support if at all possible. If you have questions about what is going to happen in your child support case, let us answer those questions. Call us today at (732) 529-6937 to talk about your case.